House Ethics Com­mit­tee clears in­tel chair­man Nunes

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The House Ethics Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day cleared the chair­man of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee on a com­plaint that he may have leaked classified in­for­ma­tion, paving the way for Rep. Devin Nunes to again lead his panel’s probe into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

The Ethics Com­mit­tee said in a brief state­ment that it de­ter­mined Nunes, a Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, did not re­lease classified ma­te­rial while talk­ing about in­for­ma­tion he had re­ceived on a clan­des­tine trip to the White House in April. Nunes had stepped aside from the Rus­sia probe pend­ing the ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tion and amid crit­i­cism that he was too close to the White House.

If Nunes were to re­turn to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it would put a close ally of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at the head of one of the con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions into whether Rus­sia co­or­di­nated with his cam­paign. Nunes was part of Trump’s tran­si­tion team af­ter the elec­tion and ques­tioned sug­ges­tions of col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia.

FBI chief de­fends agency against at­tacks

Coun­ter­ing stri­dent at­tacks on his agency from the pres­i­dent who ap­pointed him, FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Wray on Thurs­day de­fended the tens of thou­sands of peo­ple who work with him and de­clared, “There is no finer in­sti­tu­tion, and no finer peo­ple, than the men and women who work there and are its very beat­ing heart.”

Wray pro­vided his first pub­lic de­fense of the nation’s pre­mier law en­force­ment agency since a week­end of Twit­ter at­tacks by Pres­i­dent Trump, who called the FBI a bi­ased in­sti­tu­tion whose rep­u­ta­tion is “in Tat­ters — worst in His­tory!” and urged Wray to “clean house.”

The out­burst from the pres­i­dent fol­lowed a guilty plea from his former na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser for ly­ing to the FBI and the rev­e­la­tion that an agent had been re­moved from a spe­cial team in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Trump cam­paign be­cause of text mes­sages seen as po­ten­tially anti-Trump.

Wray, who served as a top Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cial un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and was nom­i­nated as FBI di­rec­tor by Trump, has faced Repub­li­can crit­i­cism over per­ceived po­lit­i­cal bias in spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe of pos­si­ble Trump cam­paign ties to Rus­sia dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and in the han­dling a year ear­lier of an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate email server that ended with­out crim­i­nal charges.

EPA leader de­nies sidelin­ing sci­ence

En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency chief Scott Pruitt said Thurs­day that his pro­posed reg­u­la­tory roll­backs and other poli­cies are grounded in sci­ence, dis­miss­ing crit­i­cisms that he is sidelin­ing ex­perts in a push to ap­pease in­dus­tries.

Pruitt de­fended his ap­proach dur­ing his first ap­pear­ance be­fore a House over­sight sub­com­mit­tee re­spon­si­ble for en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. The former Ok­la­homa at­tor­ney gen­eral said sci­ence is cen­tral to on­go­ing re­views of pol­lu­tants, toxic waste cleanups and other ac­tions.

“It is a mat­ter of pri­or­ity to make sure that we have sci­en­tific rules at the agency that are ob­jec­tive, trans­par­ent and peer re­viewed and that’s a com­mit­ment we are en­forc­ing at the agency,” said Pruitt, a Repub­li­can.

Com­mit­tee Democrats grilled Pruitt over what rank­ing mem­ber Frank Pal­lone of New Jer­sey called an “un­prece­dented as­sault on in­de­pen­dent sci­ence” by purg­ing aca­demic ex­perts from fed­eral ad­vi­sory boards and re­plac­ing them with in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

White House: Trump’s throat ‘was dry’

The White House said the pres­i­dent’s throat was merely dry when he seemed to slur his words dur­ing a Wed­nes­day ad­dress.

Press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders re­sponded to in­ter­net spec­u­la­tion about Pres­i­dent Trump’s seem­ingly slurred words, say­ing Thurs­day, “The pres­i­dent’s throat was dry — noth­ing more than that.”

Trump no­tice­ably mis­pro­nounced “states,” when concluding an ad­dress to the nation on his de­ci­sion to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael. The moment was quickly shared on­line, and prompted spec­u­la­tion about the 71-year-old pres­i­dent’s health.

San­ders also said Trump will un­dergo the cus­tom­ary pres­i­den­tial phys­i­cal in early 2018 at Wal­ter Reed Na­tional Mil­i­tary Med­i­cal Cen­ter. ro­gacy. Franks and his wife, who have strug­gled with in­fer­til­ity, have 3-year-old twins who were con­ceived through sur­ro­gacy.

Franks, 60, says he had be­come fa­mil­iar with the sur­ro­gacy process in re­cent years and “be­came in­sen­si­tive as to how the dis­cus­sion of such an in­tensely per­sonal topic might af­fect oth­ers.”

He said he re­grets that his “dis­cus­sion of this op­tion and process in the work­place” with two fe­male staffers made them feel un­com­fort­able.

Mean­while, the House Ethics Com­mit­tee said Thurs­day it is ex­pand­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into sex­ual harassment al­le­ga­tions against Rep. Blake Far­en­thold, RTexas.

The com­mit­tee said it will in­ves­ti­gate whether Far­en­thold sex­u­ally ha­rassed a former mem­ber of his staff and re­tal­i­ated against her for com­plain­ing. The com­mit­tee also said the panel would re­view al­le­ga­tions that Far­en­thold made in­ap­pro­pri­ate state­ments to other mem­bers of his of­fi­cial staff.

Lau­ren Greene is a former com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor in the con­gress­man’s of­fice.

She al­leged in a 2014 fed­eral law­suit that she was sex­u­ally ha­rassed and fired soon af­ter com­plain­ing of a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment. Far­en­thold said when the case was set­tled in 2015 that he didn’t en­gage in any wrong­do­ing.

The com­mit­tee had al­ready been con­duct­ing a dis­cre­tionary re­view of the mat­ter and has ex­am­ined more than 200,000 pages of ma­te­ri­als and in­ter­viewed mul­ti­ple wit­nesses.

How­ever, a press re­lease an­nounc­ing the sub­com­mit­tee’s for­ma­tion said the res­o­lu­tion of the case had been sig­nif­i­cantly de­layed by dif­fi­cul­ties in ob­tain­ing tes­ti­mony from key wit­nesses and in ac­cess­ing con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments the par­ties ex­changed as the law­suit was on­go­ing.

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